Leo Tolstoy‘s Anna Karenina has changed readers’ lives for generations, but for one man in particular, the epic novel saved his life. Over at NPR, we learn the story of Mohamed Barud, a man who was sentenced to life in prison in Somalia for complaining about the conditions at the local hospital. During the years of his imprisonment, he exchanged knocks on the wall with an inmate in the next cell, creating a code for each letter of the alphabet. And, in this way, Barud read the entirety of Anna Karenina to the prisoner next door. “”[Barud] says it didn’t matter how different their lives seemed. This 19th-century Russian noblewoman seemed to be suffering exactly as he was. An honest suffering drives her into a state that Mohamed most feared for himself. Anna throws herself under a train and regrets it at the last moment. ‘I really cried. I felt for her.'”
As the publication date nears for Robert Caro’s latest Lyndon Johnson installment, The Passage of Power, it’s a good idea to brush up on your history of Caro’s career. Enter Charles McGrath and his great portrait of one of the most prolific biographers of all time.
Whether or not you knew that Rose Williams, sister of Tennessee, inspired the character of Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, you’ll probably appreciate this Paris Review elegy, which goes through Rose’s short life and the effect it had on her brother.